Moving right along with my catch-up posts, in December, one of my friends organized a day trip to Kobe! I’ve only been to Kobe once before, on a field trip last year that left us with only for a few hours to see Kobe’s Chinatown and the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Museum. So up until this trip, my memories of Kobe were of eating a fantastic Kobe beef burger and crying for a solid hour and a half straight at the museum. (That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go to the Earthquake Memorial Museum – it has a lot of fantastic exhibits; the most moving being personal artifacts donated by those who were affected by the earthquake.) Anyway, as you can imagine, I was really excited to be going back to Kobe to make new (hopefully less tear-ridden) memories!
Kobe is farther from Kyoto than Osaka is, and the train ride costs about twice as much, which makes it less accessible to us Doshisha students. To get to Osaka takes only 40 minutes at ￥470 (a little under $4 USD), but to get to Kobe takes nearly an hour at ￥1,080 ($9 USD). But many of us Doshisha students made the trek to Kobe to catch the annual Kobe Luminarie light festival which happens once a year in the first two weeks of December.
As the Luminarie began once the sun goes down, we had an itinerary to visit the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden beforehand. We got off the train at Kobe-Sannomiya Station, and started to walk towards garden, which is located near the peak of the nearby mountain. The walk there was gorgeous – very quiet and peaceful, with barely anyone around. Just wide open streets that seemed to go on forever!
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe make up the Keihanshin metropolitan area and are the three major cities of the Kansai region. That being said, all three cities are completely different from each other and have their own unique characteristics. (And if you compare them to the major Kanto cities like Tokyo and Yokohama, you can definitely get a feel for the difference between Kansai and Kanto!)
After grabbing lunch at a shopping center on our way to the mountain, we had hoped to do a hike up to the Herb Garden. Unfortunately, we didn’t have quite enough time to comfortably finish the hike before sundown. Luckily for us, there is the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway that takes you directly up to the Herb Garden! We took the ropeway, skipping the optional stop at the famous Nunobiki Falls in favor of going straight to the top of the Herb Garden.
The Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden claims to be the biggest herb garden of Japan. The very top has an adorable restaurant and rest area called the View Plaza that was decked out for Christmas. It felt like one of those little Christmas villages that pop up in the holiday season. It was so cute! It’s hard to imagine that it’s not decorated for Christmas all year-round, it fit so well!
After exploring the View Plaza, we began to make our way down the winding path along the hillside where the heart of the herb gardens were. We strolled on through what they call the Four Seasons Garden. The walk going down was really, really lovely. There weren’t too many other people around, so we could go at our own pace looking at the different flowers and herbs planted along the path.
About halfway down the Herb Garden is a structure called the Glasshouse that is home to an indoor exhibit and more restaurants. We made it just in time to go into the Glasshouse before they closed it for the day. Just like the Plaza, the Glasshouse was also decorated for the holidays with a giant Christmas tree.
Of everywhere I went to during the holiday season, the Nunobiki Herb Garden had the most, “yep, it’s Christmas!” feel. 🙂
Adjacent to the Glasshouse is a proper Greenhouse, where tropical plants like hibiscus, guava, and papaya are kept year round. Immediately upon walking into the greenhouse, my camera lens fogged over from the heat and humidity, and it felt just as if I were back home in Hawai’i (ha!). Those of you readers from Hawai’i, trust me when I say you’re not missing much from my lack of photos. It felt like being in someone’s Hawaiian backyard, only indoors with mist blowing everywhere. There was a very cute statue and pond area, though!
The only photo in the Greenhouse that came out was this one! You can tell from the glass in the background just how misty and moist they keep it.
Once we were out of the Greenhouse, we were greeted with another spectacular view of the city and the sea. Being an island girl, I do find it a little unnerving not being able to see the ocean every day, even if it’s only the distant background to my daily routine. I didn’t realize how much I feel more at home when I can see the sea.
After we left the Glasshouse area, we continued winding our way down the garden. I really loved the Nunobiki Herb Garden and definitely intend on coming back at some point. It does lend itself to a more romantic feel, with out-of-the-way benches and even a lover’s bell, but the restaurant area as well as the small little museum in the Glasshouse make it worth seeing! If you ever find yourself in Kobe, make it a point to check it out! It’s so relaxing and peaceful there. I’d love to go back for a picnic in Spring once it warms up a bit!
After the Herb Garden, our group made our way to the more downtown area for the Kobe Luminarie…. which I won’t go into much detail here, because a friend of mine has requested a write-up on winter illuminations, so I’ll be talking about it and showing photos of the Luminarie in that post instead! 😉 Sorry for the tease! Until then, here are a few photos of the (very) long crawl to the Luminarie.